Dear Drew Students,
We hope this email finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. All over the world, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forces us to plan for continued disruptions in our lives. Here in The Forest, we’ve been working hard on plans for the upcoming academic year. Although those plans aren’t yet finalized—and the plans we do make will be dictated in part by any executive orders from the New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, and/or New Jersey’s progress in its reopening plan—we want to share our thinking with you, so you can begin to make plans yourself.
It is Drew’s determined and enthusiastic intention to resume on-campus teaching, learning and living for the fall semester. Our goal, while upholding very high health and safety standards as our first priority, is to provide an authentic campus experience that is rich with the hallmarks of a Drew education—meaningful, personalized, relationship-based learning and living, even in the face of a pandemic. Our plan to achieve that goal includes an effort to reduce uncertainty, while remaining flexible and nimble during this quickly evolving health crisis.
Our Open Campus Task Force, made up of members of senior leadership and our campus community, is working on a phased approach for a safe return to campus operations for the fall. We learned much about maintaining a healthy campus this spring, and our plan is to build on that learning, in keeping with best public health practices and guidance from federal and state government, and through the expertise and leadership of the group, including members of our accredited campus Health Center team.
This planning includes many aspects of life we’re now accustomed to, including social distancing, “family unit” living protocols for our residence halls, monitoring and tracking, face covering requirements, dining plan and policy changes, outbreak containment and strict attention to disinfection and clean environments.
But first and foremost, we have to get you on campus. In order to re-open on time and see you all as soon as possible, we plan to stagger the move-in period to allow for social distancing and for maximum attention to health and safety, and we plan to practice the same model for move-out later in the semester. Starting with our incoming first-year students and transfer students, students will move on campus during a staggered three-week period beginning August 16. Our newest community members will be invited first, so that they’re able to take part in orientation activities. We will follow up with more specific information on move-in, along with FAQ about the process, by the end of June.
Classes will begin on time, on August 24. In order to create a period where we can practice social distancing on this campus and to adjust to the “new normal” of life on campus, for the first three weeks of the semester, all instruction will be delivered through virtual platforms. During these three weeks, residential life and other campus activities will be face-to-face.
In-person instruction—as close to the Drew we know and love as possible—will begin September 14. Between September 14 and November 20, it is our intention to have as much face-to-face learning as possible, recognizing that for various reasons we may need to be adaptive. You can expect the same meaningful faculty-student interactions and small class sizes as always, and we are preparing for a variety of scenarios in order to ensure we are able to meet the needs of all of our community members, including those of our dedicated faculty and staff. And so, it’s important to note that as we plan for an open campus, we are also planning contingencies that protect and support those members of our community who are not students, who return home nightly to families and loved ones.
In order to reduce movement from and back to campus, and to decrease the risk of importation of COVID-19 to campus, we will end on-campus residency Thanksgiving week. To accomplish that, we’ll adjust the academic calendar to provide for staggered move-out of campus housing during that week, as mentioned above, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. To complete the semester, post-Thanksgiving classes and the exam period will take place remotely. As always, there will be a process for considering exceptions for students who need to remain on campus through the Thanksgiving break and into the final exam period.
Even with all of the safety protocols we will develop, there is a chance of an outbreak on campus. To address any possible scenario, we have designated quarantine and isolation locations, a “stay at home at Drew” approach and, in the unlikely event that we would need them, evacuation protocols. As is our practice already, students who are able to return home to quarantine or isolate will be required to do so, and we continue to work closely with local health authorities.
You have been flexible, and we intend to be flexible too. The quickly evolving nature of the pandemic requires us to be nimble and flexible in our planning and in our return to on-campus living and learning. By developing plans for various scenarios, we can promise you a standard of care and instruction, no matter the shape of the semester.
We recognize that all community members crave certainty in order to make plans, and we’ll follow up with a confirmed process for a return to campus beginning August 16 just as soon as we can. We also acknowledge that different people will have different needs, and some of this information will surely raise questions—from move-in date and financial implications to accessibility and more. We will stay in touch via direct emails, updates on social media and our website.
To keep current, please visit Drew’s COVID-19 resource site. There you’ll find a subpage called “Planning for Fall,” where we’ll post brief updates and notes by the close of business each Friday, beginning May 29. By the end of June you can expect to find a comprehensive FAQ related to resuming on-campus operations, and in the meanwhile, should you have any questions, please email our Drew Virtual Time inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued understanding and flexibility. No matter the form the semester takes, we cannot wait to welcome our students back to The Forest. We’ve missed you, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon!